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October 15, 2012 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Student Forum Impotent?


The future of the Student Forum was the focus of its last meeting for the year, on Tuesday.

It was established that any changes the forum wished to make to its own structure needed to be approved by the University Council, a point most members agreed was unacceptable.

“What would happen if we passed a motion that said ‘we are now autonomous’?” wondered Deputy Chair Julia Whaipooti.

Chair and VUWSA President Bridie Hood said that while it was important to make their objection clear, they needed to follow process.

“So we should follow the process we don’t think should exist?” asked President-elect Rory McCourt.

The forum initially discussed what their ‘core principles’ should be; McCourt suggested democracy and transparency and the others spent some time questioning what those principles even meant.

Another member suggested that the forum be a “unified framework”, so then they argued whether or not they really should be unified. The forum decided they were going to be “a framework”.

“Lets come back to this one,” said Hood.

The forum then discussed the ‘role’ of the forum.

McCourt expressed concern that the forum was preventing VUWSA from providing its traditional services, and engaging with the University.

“The University is pointing to the Student Forum as the more appropriate means, but the forum may or may not want this role,” he said.

“Do we want to come back to what we think the role is?” said Hood.

Around this time, pizza was delivered to the room.

It was clear to most of the room that little was being achieved. Student Representative Max Hardy cited some research that said the most successful student representative groups were those that were instigated by students in the first place.

“The main problem is the forum is not endorsed by students… we should put it to a referendum,” he said.
He also claimed it was the University’s intention for the forum to “diffuse the student voice”.

But Hood said Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh was open to holding a review or referendum on the forum at the beginning of 2013, instead of towards the end as previously planned.

Although, Whaipooti questioned the wisdom of holding a referendum that asked students what they thought of the student forum, if the student forum itself did not know, and considering the low turnout rate of most student elections.

Member David Rektorys felt that since most students were unaware of the forum’s existence, they would have nothing to say about it.

“Out of everyone that I’ve have talked to, only one has heard of the forum, and he mixed it up with the University Council,” he said. Rektorys was in favour of dissolving the forum.

Salient was closest to the pizza, it was only two metres away and no-one would have noticed a piece missing. Salient ultimately decided against presumptive consumption of flour-based foodstuffs, in the interest of professionalism.

“A referendum would be a waste of time,” said Whaipooti, although she felt dissolving the forum would be a mistake.

But McCourt argued that students needed to be given the opportunity to tell the University what their representation should look like.

Eventually a motion was passed that said each representative group would consult its own members before giving their views on the forum, to be collated by a newly establish committe.

They also passed a motion, 12-8, to hold a referendum after the committee had presented its findings.


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  1. Max Hardy says:

    Just for the record.

    I never said (and do not think) that it was the University’s (whoever that refers to) intention for the forum to “diffuse the student voice”. I said that diffusion of the student voice is a result of the forum and a “cynic might think” that it was the intention of *some* of the parties.

    Also the research I cited was about the benefit of students’ associations (i.e. student-led organisations that have a dual representative and service function) not about who instigated the organisation.

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